If you read this blog much, you’ve heard me wax eloquent (well…wax, anyway) about the merits of national health care. And while national health systems have their weaknesses…our system is even worse. Since we’ve never been able to agree on a national system, but still ethically know we can’t turn sick people away, we have a bastardized system that carries all the problems of both a market system and a social system. Aside from just relenting, admitting that we do have a social health system and fixing it, we could at least improve things dramatically by finally developing a medical data card.
In Israel where I went to school, everybody has a health care data card. Looking exactly like a credit card, effectively every pertinent medical fact about their lives is contained on it. Every medical facility has the same computer system, and when the patient goes to the doctor, the card gets swiped and everything pops up on the doc’s computer. Every Xray. Every doctor’s visit. Every allergy and surgery, every doctor’s note, every blood test, every medication. It’s all there. Aside from colluding all medical care so that safety and efficacy is dramatically improved, a nice little card like this would have certainly prevented a minor problem in our clinic today:
We’ve been seeing a patient for her 7th pregnancy. Obstetrical care for her is not simple. Aside from the fact that after a few pregnancies, care gets more complex, she has many medical conditions that complicate things even further. What we didn’t know was that this patient, along with being seen regularly by my clinic, she was also going to another clinic down the street for the same thing. When it came time to deliver, the other OB showed up and so did we. Nobody knew who would actually catch the baby. After some rather unprofessional-looking confusion, the other group performed the delivery. Now we’re all wondering who is getting paid for all the work we did. It was doubled up: High-risk ultrasounds, glucose tolerance tests, frequent visits. It was expensive for us. It was expensive for the other clinic. We all expected to be at least marginally paid for all that work.
The patient’s explanation was an honest and wide-eyed, “I didn’t think it would be a problem. My care was complex and I figured if you both wanted to care for me, two would be better than one.” She had absolutely no idea about the financial impact this kind of care takes on our clinic. And why would she? She doesn’t pay for it. Medical care, to her, is like a drinking fountain in a public park. Do you ever think about who pays for the water in a public drinking fountain? Who purifies it? Who bought the fountain itself? I just figure it’s there for me and I can use it, as much of it, as I want. And unless there’s a line, I can use it as often as I want. Never would I even consider it a problem to use one fountain and then again using another one a block away.
This patient clearly sees her health care the same way. Our clinic director was livid. Since the other clinic actually ended up doing the delivery, they’re likely to be the ones to get paid. We can then bill the patient, but she can’t pay for it. She never could. How many of us can come up with $4000 in an instant? In the end, our clinic will have to pay out of pocket for the care, and don’t be fooled by the nice building and sign out front…nobody’s getting rich off our clinic. There are months when we’re in the red and we all hope that there well be months in the black enough to cover the lean times. The wolf is always at the door.
If she had to give us her medical card to swipe, we would have seen her visit to the other OB two doors down that the patient saw yesterday. We could have told this patient to just see one doc and the expensive problem she caused would have been avoided. This is just one example of a problem that could be fixed by a national health data card.
One of the reasons we don’t have such a system in America is because Christian conservatives oppose the idea as a result of their literal reading of the Biblical book of Revelation. They believe the anti-Christ will be a great ruler that will rise to global power, force all to denounce Christ – Mohommed also, I presume – and then herald the end of the world in the battle of Armageddon. This battle is to occur in the Valley of Meggido (see pic), which is actually a rather tight fit if the armies of the entire world are to battle there. But never mind this practical problem with prophecy…I digress. Part of the prophecy is that this ruler will use national numbering and collective data to control the world. A nationalized medical information system, especially with cards or UPN strips embedded in our skin, is thought to have been prophesied as part of the ruler’s master plan for global domination.
Aside from my previously-mentioned annoyance at seeing Christians reason from a foundation of fear – rather than elation at the knowledge that they will be victorious even in death – I will add these points: First, the government has total access to nearly all personal information through our social security numbers anyway. If they want you, they have you. They’ve had all the tools necessary to tag and number every single American since the Red Scare in the ’50’s when Christians were fretting about the marching scourge of Communism. I also suggest that NOWHERE in the Bible are believers told to politically or physically oppose the anti-Christ or his/her rise to power. I don’t believe Revelation is literal – all the beauty of that book is contained in the metaphor of it – but assuming for a moment that it is literal, I can’t see any admonition to fight the anti-Christ in any manner except to resist any force that subverts Christ as the One True God.
The rise of the anti-Christ is foretold. Christians are not commanded – anywhere – to oppose this. And anyway, why should Christians oppose prophecy from their own Holy Scriptures? They ARE told to oppose religious conversion forced upon them by this powerful leader. So, I really can’t see a rational opposition to a national medical data card. Even one embedded in my arm. Given my penchant for losing things, I’d be the first to sign up for an implant. And doing so doesn’t violate even my most literal reading of Revelation or any other book of the bible. Even if the anti-Christ proposed it.
The life purpose of a Christian is not survival, especially not political survival. Christians are called to glorify God. Helping more people become healthy in this world – you could call it healing if you’re being dramatic – is most certainly more glorifying and reflective of God’s spirit than fighting the rise of potential anti-Christs.